Tales from the Morgue

Part 4

The Plantation's liquor license was in danger of being revoked. There were issues with which Nardelli brother held the license and accusations  of selling liquor to patrons who were drunk and to minors.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Saturday, September 21, 1935:


Plantation's Operator Must Show Cause to Prevent Revoking

PHOENIX, Sept. 20.—(Special to Arizona Dally Star)—The fate of the Plantation, Tucson night club, rests today in the hands of the state tax commission, which will hold a hearing Monday morning at 11 o'clock on the question of revoking the liquor license of George Nardelli, nominal proprietor.

Nardelli's was among the first licenses to be issued after the repeal of prohibition. Records in the commission office show that it was applied for early in 1933, that the application was withdrawn with no reason given and that later it was re-filed. This bore the approval of Sheriff John F. Belton and was disapproved by County Attorney Clarence Houston. Houston's report had written over it a note, apparently by someone else, that he had objected because Nardelli had been convicted of a liquor charge, but had mistaken George Nardelli for his brother Bob.

Without Investigation

Licenses for 1934 and 1935 were renewals, issued without further investigation. The last was issued prior to the adoption of the new law under which applications must first be referred to either the city council or the board of supervisors.

The file on George Nardelli shows him to be a graduate of the University of Arizona and a former employe of the Phelps Dodge corporation at Morenci. There are numerous reports by tax commission investigators of visits to the place in all of which it was reported no actual violation of the law had been noted, but two of them mentioned that there was much drunkenness.

No formal complaint was made to the commission in the present case, but Chairman Thad Moore and Commissioner Frank Luke of the commission were in Tucson at the time Bob Nardelli and his bartender, Eddie Manciet, were arrested for an attack on Deputy Sheriff Maurice Hedderman. They visited the place as they drove past it on their way back to Phoenix and on arrival called a meeting of the full commission and it was voted unanimously to call the hearing.

Bob In Phoenix

Bob Nardelli did not wait for Monday, but went to Phoenix Thursday and spent considerable time closeted with Moore, but the hearing, which will be public, will be held nevertheless.

From the Star, Tuesday, September 24, 1935:


Plantation Owner Charged With Sales to Drunks And Minors


Moore Thinks Attorney Is Right in Denying Authority of Board


PHOENIX, Sept. 23.—Split wide, asunder on the question of strict enforcement of the state liquor regulations, especially as pertaining to roadhouses and night clubs, the state tax commission is in the midst of a lengthy inquisition involving nearly 100 such. In each of these hearings, operators and proprietors of Arizona night clubs have been cited to show cause why their liquor licenses should not be revoked. Citations arise from a number of alleged violations of the liquor enforcement enforcement laws, brought for the most part by special investigators of the liquor enforcement division of the tax commission.

D. C. O'Neil, member of the commission, is backing the drive for more rigid enforcement strongly, while Chairman Thad Moore and Frank Luke, member, appear slightly disinterested.

At today’s series of hearings, that based on the citation of George Nardelli, bartender of the Plantation night club north of Tucson, was due, but was postponed indefinitely. Nardelli, his brother Robert owner of the Plantation (George Nardelli’s name appears as licensee), and Eddie Manciet, headwaiter at the Plantation, appeared at yesterday's hearing. Louis G. Whitney, Phoenix attorney, appeared for Nardelli, asking the commission for a postponement of the hearing.

Whitney made an avowal that George O. Hilzinger, Nardelli's attorney, was to be busy all this week in Pima county superior court in a lawsuit. If worst came to worst, Whitney said, and the commission insisted on having the hearing at the hour set, he would attempt to represent Nardelli, but he urged that the commission enable the liquor dispenser to be represented by his own counsel. O'Neil stated later that the Nardelli hearing probably would be reset for two weeks hence.

Faces Three Charges

Nardelli is charged with running gambling games at the Plantation, with selling liquor to disorderly and intoxicated persons and to minors, and with operating under a liquor license not issued to the real party of interest. It appears that the investigation launched by O'Neil's investigators has brought to light the fact that while the Plantation liquor license is in the name of George Nardelli, an employe, Robert Nardelli is the owner and operator of the place. It was learned also that the crux of the liquor enforcement department's case will rely on the sworn testimony testimony of the Nardellis in the recent preliminary hearing held in Tucson in the Hedderman assault case.

Whitney, in connection both with the Nardelli case and with a Phoenix night club case, filed written objections to the hearings, stating that he did not believe the tax commission had jurisdiction in these matters. Moore, in one of his few remarks during the day, said "I believe you are right.”

Throughout the day's inquisition, involving several cases, O'Neil led the questioning for the tax commission, with Chairman Moore and Member Luke remaining silent for the most part.

The second Tucson case, involving citation of Mrs. Irene Serasio, was heard shortly and taken under advisement. Mrs. Serasio was charged with conducting gambling at Venice gardens, the citation arising from Sheriff Belton's recent gambling raid. Mrs. Serasio, ill, was unable to make an appearance. A showing was made that the "gambling” conducted at Venice gardens consisted of a “chuck-a-luck” machine, from which players won candy, drinks and merchandise, but no money, and that the tax commission had licensed this machine, which had been in operation one month prior to the raid. No further showing was made by the tax commission in this case.

Next: Testimony in one courtroom can be held against you in another.

Johanna Eubank is an online content producer for the Arizona Daily Star and tucson.com. Contact her at jeubank@tucson.com

About Tales from the Morgue: The "morgue," is what those in the newspaper business call the archives. Before digital archives, the morgue was a room full of clippings and other files of old newspapers.